Tsubaki (Echo Park): A Pictorial Essay

Tsubaki izakaya opened earlier this month amidst little fanfare in Echo Park. Despite it being the opening night, the dinner I ate at Tsubaki was impressively better than what I expected.

RESERVATIONS: Came here on a whim (walked in), so no reservations. I know, I should have called ahead, just to be polite, but luckily there were lots of open seats.

PARKING: Valet attendant outside, and street parking available in the local neighborhoods within 2-3 blocks.

DECOR: High ceilings, open kitchen. Bar seats are available at both the kitchen counter and also another bar facing the street. Tables of 2-tops and 4-tops are plentiful. Mood is dark but punctuated with soft lighting and low music which allows for conversation. All of this translates to: Good for dates. Bathroom is clean (but alas, no Toto toilet).

DRINK MENU: Interesting. Drinking is an inherent part of the izakaya experience There is a sake sommelier who roams the room, and is knowledgeable. Tsubaki carries about 17 different sakes across all ends the spectrum (including 2 nigori labels), as well as 6 different shochus. Draft beer includes Asahi, Hitachino Nest Saison du Japon, and Coedo Beniaka. I enjoyed a draft sake called Bushido (junmai genshu) from Kyoto, which was serviceable for my dinner.

Service: Cordial and professional. The only gaffe was my server not knowing a few of the garnishes on 1 or 2 of my dishes (but it was opening night after all, so really not an issue from my perspective).

And now, onto the food…

Sake-marinated foie gras, with ikura, pickled crab apples, aged soy, and served with toasted milk bread… A beautiful start to dinner! My only quibble here was that the milk bread, though thoroughly toasted, was still too soft, and competed with the foie gras in terms of texture. BUT this dish overall was tasty!

Nasu nibitashi (seasoned Japanese eggplant), served with myoga (Japanese ginger) and scallions… Myoga is under-utilized as an ingredient in L.A. - This eggplant dish was straightforward (classic izakaya feel) and terrific.

Sakura masu (Tasmanian ocean trout) tartare, with pickled daikon & ikura… The takuan (pickled daikon) really made this dish a standout!

Ebi (prawn) harumaki, with Caledonian blue prawns, yuzu kosho tartar sauce and a lemon wedge… Delicious shrimp, head and all. The tartar sauce was a bit heavy-handed, but it’s served on the side, so I simply used less of it. I should have ordered a beer to accompany with this dish.

Kinoko kombu-mushi, using forest mushrooms (such as enoki & eryngii), garlic oil, katsuo butter & mitsuba, served on a bed of seaweed… Delicious.

Uzura (quail), which has been koji-marinated then grilled, served with endive salad & moromi miso dressing… A perfectly prepared quail! One of the true highlights of the evening!

Kakuni (simmered pork belly), with kabocha pumpkin, bloomsdale spinach & arima sansho… Gentle au jus, and the arima sansho gave the whole thing a bit of “zing”! I would have liked the pork stew flavor to be more “in your face”, and the pork did not easily break down with the spoon or fork I was given.

Kare soba (buckwheat curry noodles), with chili garlic oil, & poached egg… Interesting flavors and textures, but I think an udon version of this would have been even better.

Dessert #1: Cream puff with Madagascar vanilla filling… Pretty much a Beard Papa-level confection. Yum!

Dessert #2: Housemade hojicha (roasted tea) soft serve, topped with tea powder… Superb!

Tea: Genmai matcha (brown rice green tea)

A strong opening night, with good food in an auspicious location (down the hill from Dodger Stadium). I look forward to seeing Tsubaki on future visits and trying some of the other great-looking dishes on their menu.


1356 Allison Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90026


Great recap as usual. Sounds like the chef is ambitious, showing his acumen with a broad range of unique ingredients and processes. You mentioned myoga, which evokes thoughts of summer to me. But (the humble) takuan and sansho (rarely seen) as well as mitsuba. And quail?

Hitachino Nest and Coedo on tap - whaaaat?

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On April 29, Chef Namba will be participating in the Tsubaki x Terra @Eataly Century City: A Study of Fire Series collaboration.

Proceeds benefit Restaurants Care…